Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 119:41-64 (morning) // 19, 112 (evening)
Today’s reading from Romans first struck me as an odd choice for the Feast of Saint Matthew. In this passage, Paul tries to expand our understandings of salvation, making “righteousness” available not only to those who follow the life-giving ethical teachings of the Law, but also to “everyone who believes.” Paul holds a broad and accessible view of salvation: “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Perhaps this generous teaching of Paul fits the tradition of Matthew being a tax collector, who would have relied very heavily on God’s mercy and indulgence in order to be considered righteous. But Paul’s teaching on salvation fits less easily with the tradition of Matthew as an evangelist. In the Gospel of Matthew, salvation depends more directly on practicing a righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:17-20), and on our treatment of people in need (Mt 25:31-46).
Ironically, Paul’s effort to open people’s hearts and minds to a more generous view of salvation has backfired. Christians sometimes seize on his words to prove that salvation is only achieved through a confession of Christ as Lord and a belief in a particular understanding of Christ’s resurrection. In these cases, though, we may be falling into the same trap that Paul warned us about, counting us too among those who “have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened.”
Is it possible that God saves tax collectors in deep need of mercy, religious folks who pursue the highest ethical standards, and people who serve the poor and needy with no religious motivation at all? The figure of Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, holds together all of these possibilities. We too may adopt generous hearts rather than narrow perspectives on salvation, lest our zeal outweigh our fuller enlightenment.
Lora Walsh blogs about the Daily Office readings at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with adult formation and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.